Australia- Trade and Immigration Background As Joycelynhas mentioned Australia’s having greater and greaterinteraction with its Asian neighbours, through the areas oftrade and its active role in the regional trade organization -APEC. Despite its location, Australia can hardly be thoughtof being an Asian country. Not so long ago, Asian werelooked down upon, with a mixture of fear because of thecommunist aggression, pity because of their poverty, andcontempt, as they dumped cheap and poorly made productsto do Australian workers out of job. For decades, highprohibitive tariffs blocked the imports of Asian goods, and a’White Australia’ policy fenced off Asian migrants.
However,the situation is reversed in the past 2 decades. With EastAsia being the fastest growing economy, and thedevelopment of regional trade blocs in their traditionaltrading partners such as the EC and NAFTA that tend toemphasize internal trade, Asia becomes Australia’s singlemost promising opportunity. And now, Australia is eager tobe Asian. Trade (See overhead – Exports) In 1994, some60% of Australia’s total exports equivalent to more than 60B A$ went to Asia.
While Japan remains to be their largesttrading partner, S Korea replaced US to take the secondplace. But at the same time, Australia’s share of Asia’s totalimports is declining, down from 3% in 1985 to 2% in 95. The main reason is that Asian countries are trading moreamong themselves, and importing more hi-er value-addedproducts, rather than the common Australian exportedcommodities. However, steering towards value-addingindustries is not easy.Order now
Besides infrastructure and laborreform, Australian manufacturers will become head on withsome of Asia’s most efficient operations. Anyway, Australiahas shown its committment to free trading. The former Laborgovernment has committed to cutting the average tariff formost imports to 5% by 2000, compared to 20% in 1983. And the trend towards a more open economy will becontinued by the new Liberal-National gov’t. Most domesticbusiness will not survive under such open competition, butAustralia sees this as an opportunity to reshape itsmanufacturing base to become narrower and deeper, andmore competitive.
They see an ideal picture of Australiaimporting cheap manufactured goods from Asia instead ofmaking expensive ones at home behind tariff, and Asiabuying mineral and food from them. Yet the Asia’ssuper-achievers have never been the faithful worshipper offree-trade. And Australia has found it hard to dismantle thebarriers to processed minerals and food in the Asianmarkets, and this impedes their development of value-addingindustries and job creation. But from the Asia’s pt of view,Australia’s tiny population of 17 M means little to the Asiangiants, for example when compared to Indonesia’s 180 M. A qoute from the Malaysian Info minister, ‘Australia dependson Asia and not the other way around. ‘ may reflectsAustralia’s position, at least this is the way the Asians see it.
Immigration (See Overhead – Immigration) Another sign ofAustralia’s willingness to open is its generous immigrationpolicy. The # admitted stayed over 100,000 in the 80s, butwas cut back to 80,000 in 92. Most of them were fromAsia. Besides the categories of family reunion and refugee,Australia, like Canada, also attracted hundred of thousandsof skilled or business immigrants from Hong Kong wherepeople fled as the Chinese takeover approaches.
Thesepeople brought in an enormous amt of capital, and alsoinitiated a boom in the real estate market. The proportion ofAustralian with Asian origins are expected to increase to 7%in 2000, as compared to 4% now. Most Australians feeluneasy about this sudden change in the ethnic mixtures oftheir countries, and opposing voices are high. Theunemployment figure is double digit already, and most of theimmigrants are unskilled since they were admitted for havingrelations in Australia. New policies call for lower # admitted,and more quotas given to people with skills and highereducation background.
Australians are apprehensive aboutthe pace of Asian immigration, and tension is rising. Manycomplain that the new comers keep themselves separaterather than integrating into community life. But this requirescommittment from both sides, and it’s not easy to be doneright the way. Most of new comers have language problems,esp those came for family reunion. Australians on the otherhand, have little knowledge of other Asian cultures, andconflicts can occur easily due to misunderstanding.
On theextreme side, fringe groups such as the neo-Nazi AustralianNationalist Movement and the League of Rights explicitlyclaimed that immigration was bad if it meant more Asians. And the cases of racist violence is increasing. The last PMPaul Keating actually started some initiatives to narrow thegap between the local people and immigrants, such asintroducing Asian culture in the school curriculum. Aninteresting pt to note, the current PM Mr Howard publiclyopposed the multi-cultural policies, such as hiringinterpreters. His attitude can be constrasted to Canadawhich take pride in its multiculturalism, and we’ll discuss itfurther later. Challenges So far it seems that Australia isheading in the right direction, but its successful integrationinto Asia won’t be easy.
Opposing forecs come bothexternally and internally. At home, few Australians seethemselves as Asian. They already felt hostile about theJapanese investment in their real estate and tourism, andmore interaction with Asian countries is uneasy esp to manyold Australians. On the other side, after all these years ofisolation and avoidance of its Asian neighbours, Australiacan hardly convince its neighbours that it’s Asian. Insteadthey try to be an odd man among its neighbours, that is tointegrate fully into the economic life of the region, whilepreserving its western values.
But from the Asian side, theymay not easily accept Australia’s western practices. Themain issue lies in the difference in their attitude towardsindividual freedom and respect of human rights. Take someexamples. Dr Mohammad resented that Australia refuse tocensor a tv program ‘Embassy’ which he claimed wasmocking Malaysia. Australia also got into diplomaticproblems with certain authoritarian regimes for critizing theirbehaviors. Its relationship with Indonesia is always tense forits criticisms of Indonesia over human rights, corruption, andthe status of East Timor.
Even Singapore didn’t likeAustralia’s comment on its harrassment of the Asian Wall StJournal and other newspaper. As other Asian countries allshare similar culture and values, Australia with its westernnature would easily be labelled as intruder. And they allunderstand that Australia’s friendliness towards Asia iseconomically driven, it comes out of the mind, not the heart. Moreover, some of them even suspect it of acting as astalking horse for western interests.
Malaysia proposed aregional East Asia Econ Caucus which will exclude the USand Australia, and this is clashing over with APEC in whichAustralia and US are active participant. So, how canAustralia manage its odd man role in the Asian region?Should it go for Multiculturalism or a melting pot policy likethe US? How can it balance its relationship with itsneighbours while preserving its western values?Category: History